Of course, it’s always a cause of concern when egg-laying hens reduce their production or stop laying at all suddenly.
Wise and long-term chicken keepers know that a stop in egg production is part of a laying hen’s natural cycle. So, if your hen stops laying today doesn’t mean it won’t produce eggs tomorrow.
But this is the reason you should always keep track of how many eggs your chicken produces. This way, you’ll notice a decline and know straight away if something is amiss.
Don’t beat yourself up over why you might have done to cause this because there are so many reasons why it happens. Read on to find out why this happens.
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
A pullet (a chicken less than a year old) begins laying eggs when she reaches around 16-18 weeks old, although some breeds can start when they are older.
How Often Should Chickens Lay Eggs?
Egg laying is a complex and delicate process to a hen, so anything that might startle or shock your bird can cause the travesty.
Your hen will lay an egg every 24 to 26 hours under normal conditions. The hen will reliably lay eggs in its first two to three years before the numbers start dwindling due to life stages to conditions like weather, nutrition, and day length.
Why Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
A hen in its egg-laying stage can stop producing eggs due to natural causes or something else you can simply fix with easy changes. For instance:
1. Natural Annual Molting Cycle
It’s pretty natural for chickens to molt during different times of the year. Molting is the process where chickens shed their old feathers to allow newer and brighter feathers to regrow.
However, this molting cycle is highly stressful for chickens. It requires substantial protein amounts for it to occur, making it hard for the hen’s body to support the growth and egg production at the same time.
This process can be so taxing that chickens just take a break so their bodies can put energy into growing new beautiful plumage. Your hen will appear slightly weary and worn out during this time.
Molting mainly occurs in the fall, although it’s not unusual to see a hen molt any time of the year, including during winter. Some shed quickly while others take their time, although it averagely lasts for around 16 weeks.
2. Decreased Daylight
First-time chicken keepers may not know this, but a laying hen requires plenty of time out in the sunshine, or it may fail to produce eggs.
The amount of daylight hours a chicken gets impacts her egg-laying capacity, requiring nothing less than 12 hours under enough sunlight. Make it 14 to 16 hours if you want to keep your hen at peak production.
Hens require increased daylight hours because of a gland between their eyes, which secretes certain hormones in response to light. These hormones signal the hen’s body to begin laying eggs.
These birds naturally take a break to regenerate during winter just after molting, a move that may see the number of eggs slow down or cease altogether. However, they resume laying in the Spring when the bodies heal, and you increase daylight times.
3. Improper Diet
Offering your chickens too much wrong food causes malnutrition. What comes up in most people’s minds when they hear of malnutrition are pictures of starving birds. However, obese birds are malnourished, just in a different way.
Most chicken keepers have a false perception that a fat and happy hen produces larger and more eggs. However, an imbalance of nutrition altogether, whether too much or too little, will prevent your hen’s body from functioning as it would in a normal state and alter its egg production.
4. Old Age
Could your girl be getting a bit too old to lay eggs? Most laying hens begin to produce fewer eggs once they are two to three years old and continue for one or two years until they eventually stop. Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop your hen from getting older.
5. They Could Be Broody
A chicken going broody is something a keeper will experience at one point or another, as a time comes when a hen feels compelled to become a mother. However, most chicken keepers prevent their laying hens from interacting with roosters, something that can cause a “hysterical notion of pregnancy” and confusion in a hen.
A chicken that goes broody will stop producing eggs entirely for five to ten weeks when the broodiness breaks.
It’s good to let your hen get around roosters if it becomes broody. After all, it’ll be giving you more hens to improve egg production.
Chickens may seem like the calmest and tranquil creatures, but they are delicate and neurotic beings during the laying season. Therefore, they require optimum concentration, or else they won’t produce eggs.
Things like predators such as dogs and cats, hyper kids, enthusiastic owners who force hens to the nesting corner too regularly, or moving a hen to a new coop can stress a laying bird. Such distractions can inhibit a hen from laying even when it’s the production season.
Mites and lice can torment and make a laying chicken too uncomfortable to lay an egg. These pests tend to hide around the vent and in the plumage or under the wings, making it hard for you to notice them.
8. Disease and Discomfort
A hen will stop laying eggs when it falls ill. A laying hen can catch a whole host of illnesses and infections with terrible symptoms that make it pretty challenging to produce eggs.
They may cease to lay temporarily until you address the condition, during which you may want to separate it from other healthy hens.
9. Extreme Weather
An extremely hot or cold environment can stop a hen from producing eggs, which is a physiological response to environmental stress.
It would be best to make your bird as comfortable and warm as possible during winter by insulating the coop.
Roosters are vital for a backyard hen’s productivity, only that an overtly lustful rooster can be a recipe for stress and injuries to hens.
Roosters that constantly harass a hen can make her nervous, make her go off the feeds, and hide, which leads to reduced production or stopping entirely.
Water is essential to every life, including egg production. Therefore, your hen requires plenty of clean water during the laying season or summer.
Ensure that you supply your bird with plenty of water when it’s too hot in summer, mainly because hens have more problems dealing with heat than cold.
These birds do not sweat like humans, so they’ll use any means like panting to try to cool themselves down, a process that causes stress and inhibits laying. Water availability will act as a coolant, allowing your hen to calm down and lay eggs.
12. Breed Type
Chicken keepers sometimes forget that chicken breeds differ and that certain species aren’t just great layers as others. For instance, fowls like Rhode Island Reds and Orpingtons can produce more than 200 eggs annually, while others like Silkies only lay less than a hundred eggs a year.
You need to understand the breed you bring home and what to expect to prevent disappointments and surprises.
1. Remove Stressors
One way of ensuring continuous egg production is to improve your hen’s living conditions. For example, keep stress levels to a minimum by offering your chickens a safe and strong enclosure to keep predators away.
Try to maintain a routine with your layers-the less change, the better. It would also be best to understand the most recent changes and help the hen adjust and avoid swift changes. Also, keep their nesting places warm, silent, with as minimum intrusions as possible.
2. Improve Nutrition
You can ensure your hens get proper nutrients by using high-quality formulated feeds. You can use organic or commercial layer feeds and mix your poultry rations, which is fine as long as you know your hen’s nutritional needs.
Also, avoid overfeeding or starving your hens if you want to keep the eggs coming. Keep treats to a minimum, whether healthy treats like veggies and grains or food scraps.
The general rule of thumb is to keep the feeds at 90/10, which means that your hen’s diet should contain 90% whole feeds and 10% treats.
3. Conduct Regular Check-Ups
Parasites and pests can’t be noticeable if you don’t make an effort to check your chicken’s skin and feathers frequently. You can treat infestations when you see them or do it regularly as a preventive mechanism. Ensure you re-treat any infested bird after a week to eradicate new parasites.
4. Provide Proteins During the Molting Period
Help your hen during molting by supplementing its protein absorption. Its diet can include 20% proteins or more, although you should transition back to a calcium-packed layer feeds once it starts layings again.
5. Add Light Hours
Winter can get too dark sometimes, and the best you can do is increase light hours by lighting your chicken’s coop.
It would be best to add the lighting at sunrise rather than sunset; otherwise, your hen can be plunged into darkness before they roost. Also, longer daylights will make your hens start laying again.
6. Control Your Roosters
Set out a schedule for your roosters if they must breed. One or two days a week can be enough for it to conduct its business.
Also, balance the rooster to hen ratio by ensuring that one rooster has about three to four hens.
Every chicken keeper wants to help their egg layers to produce the tastiest eggs for the longest time possible. Naturally, therefore, it’s normal to feel distressed, anxious, betrayed, and question yourself when you open up your chicken’s nesting box and discover that your hen didn’t lay a single egg.
Well, that shouldn’t be hard now that you know what makes chickens stop laying eggs, although some like age is natural, and there isn’t much you can do about it.
Just ensure that you stay ahead of the physical causes like stressors and nutrition to keep your hens healthy, happy, and frequent layers.
Featured Image Credit: C.Lotongkum, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.